The Robert Greene Interview, Part 3
TM: Do people approach you differently when they know you’re Robert Greene and they know your work? In negotiations or things like that?
RG: I haven’t been in too many negotiation situations. I let my lawyer handle that. But yes, in general people treat me very differently. They expect me to be hardcore, cynical, mean, a real asshole, but I’m not like that at all. When people who just meet me see that I am quite relaxed and low-key, they usually think that I’m putting on an act, that deep down, or behind the scenes I am vicious and amoral. These impressions can work to my advantage and disadvantage, but they are there and I am always aware of them.
TM: What about the women you date? If they have read Art of Seduction, do they treat you differently?
RG: Yeah, yeah and its not even women. If there’s an interview going on and I don’t call the person right back or maybe an hour later, they think I’m using a power trip even though I’m maybe stuck in traffic. I find with some women, they tend to be intimidated right off the bat. They think I’m Casanova, they think they have to be a siren; they have to be mysterious and either they try and stay away or they’re nervous. When I meet a women or anyone who can act normal around me I’m quite impressed and happy.
TM: I’m sure you must get approached for advice all the time. What is the weirdest or funniest story about someone coming to you for strategic or seduction advice?
RG: I do these one on one consulting things where I charge a lot of money. For a day of advice. Early on I had this guy who was an executive VP of a brokerage firm and he was pestering me with emails–he wanted to meet me for a day and I said alright. So we meet in New York and for several hours we’re talking business, and I am completely rearranging the next three years of his life, working to craft a grand strategic plan that if he follows, will bring him incredible power. Then, out of the blue, he changes the subject to this secretary in his office. He is trying to be clever and subtle, but I sense the real reason he has hired me is to give him killer advice on how to seduce this young woman. Then it comes out he is a real pickup artist, that’s his main passion in life, not stocks and bonds. He is also married, with children. And his wife knows about his affairs, and one more strike, and it’s over. I start thinking, I don’t want to give this guy the perfect advice on how to get this secretary, be the cause of his breakup, ruin his daughter’s life. I tell him about the 50 mile rule. I tell him to avoid this secretary, to get real distance, to not make such a stupid mistake. Then it hits me–he has already tried to seduce her, and if he ignores her like I am telling him to do, she will read it another way, and will fall for him as he pulls back. If she starts to pursue him then, he would fall for it, I was sure. In the end, after much hard work on my part, I convinced him to find another object of desire, to not mix business with pleasure. But it ended up being all we talked about.
TM: Your work, especially 48 Laws, is very popular in the hip hop community. Kanye West and Jay Z both reference you in songs, and you are writing the foreword to 50 Cent’s next book. Why do you think this community is so drawn to your work?
RG: Its hard for me to say because I’m a white guy who grew up in fairly comfortable circumstances. But I think that for a lot of African Americans so much is stacked against them from day one, and the power games they witness are really brutal, very real, so that they have a crystal clear awareness about how this world operates. They are attracted to my books because I tell it straight; I am honest about the power game. For those who are involved in the music industry and who have ambition, the 48 Laws and the WAR book can be very helpful. There is nothing more Machiavellian and manipulative than the music business. For a lot of these artists, the game is about how to gain some control, some real power, long term power, as opposed to immediate dollars. Many of these rappers are great strategists, have figured out the game and how to turn it in their favor, have their own labels, their own empires, controlling the options. They are real American success stories and I want to know more about their ideas and their strategies.
TM: The Art of Seduction is very popular among the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) community, and was mentioned prominently in Neil Strauss’ book, “The Game.” What do you think of the PUA community?
RG: I don’t have any beef with them, I don’t know them that well so its maybe not for me to say. I know that there’s a lot of stuff in the NLP [ed note: neuro-linguistic programming, a style of seduction invented by Ross Jeffries] world that are kind of the source or foundation for the Pickup artist world. I think there’s a lot of interesting things in NLP, a lot of truth to it but what sometimes bothers me a little bit isn’t so much what the original thinkers of NLP were coming up with, but how its used. It becomes really formulaic, almost in a clichéd way, where there are these buzz words, this A B and C business and you just have to learn these techniques and go out and apply them and its really kind of mechanical and not strategic or creative. I find that really uninteresting. To be a real seducer, a great seducer, you have to have a flow, a style that is your own. You can take ideas and suggestions from books, but you have to think in the moment. A pickup artist can a get a girl in a bar to sleep with him, but then what? I am interested in power, in making people fall in love with you, in having the capacity to influence and change their behavior. A different approach.
TM: Do you play poker? Without knowing you, I’d assume that poker is a natural fit for you.
RG: I used to play a lot of poker in college. It almost for a while financed my college. I think it’s a brilliant way of learning elements of strategy. I read several really interesting books on poker strategy that I used in the 48 laws. Two elements interest me the most–the capacity to conceal your intentions behind a bland, or unreadable exterior, something I advocate for any power situation. And second, the idea of making it impossible for people to detect patterns in what you are doing. Unpredictability has great power. Chess is a game that is based on patterns, but the genius of a Bobby Fisher was to make it impossible for his opponents to discern a pattern in his overall strategy. Those are the two main ideas that I apply and I think poker is endlessly illuminating about strategy and about life.
TM: I have to ask: Let’s say that for some reason, your life was on the line, you were in mortal danger, and you had to pick one person, dead or alive, to create a strategy to get you out of that situation. Who would it be? And it can’t be yourself.
RG: I know it would be between Musashi and Napoleon. I would probably choose Musashi. Miyamoto Musashi.
RG: Musashi was constantly facing … he fought in maybe 80 duels-to-the-death in his life and he defeated each one of his opponents. Musashi can teach you how to ground yourself in the moment, to master your mind and the situation, to find something in your enemies, some weakness hidden in their strengths, and from a position of calmness, defeat and kill them. I love his strategic approach, but I also found myself identifying with Musashi as a human being.
TM: What part? Why do you say that?
RG: Because he had a lot of anger. He was an outsider, this strange man who came from a broken home. He really had no family and from very early on he wandered around Japan as a ronin. He looked strange, he had terrible eczema. In a culture like Japan he was the consummate outsider and yet he managed to become the most famous Samurai ever. Each time he faced an opponent he came up with something new and creative and different… the other guy would have a bigger sword or a better technique and he would defeat him and kill him each time. I don’t know of anyone else I would like to depend on, but Napoleon would be a close second.
TM: What’s in the future for you? What can we look forward to in the coming years from Robert Greene?
RG: Well I’m very excited about this blog. I’ve signed up with two speaker bureaus, and I’ll be doing talks around the country, which will be announced on my blog, of course. I’m working with Quincy Jones III, Quincy Jones’ son on producing a DVD about the 48 Laws of Power and the hip hop world. I’m working on my fourth book which is going to be a closure of the first three where I reveal the essence of strategy and the game of life. I am seeing it as a It kind of ultimate statement on what constitutes power and victory in this world. How to take over anything and make it your own. Its going to be a short book, not a lot of research, not many anecdotes. I will discuss it and give readers a taste of it on the blog. There’s a fifth book coming up, I don’t want to go too deeply into it, but its about my interests in kind extreme experiences in life, what they mean, what they teach us. It will be an adventure for me, and a more journalistic book. It is what I am most excited about, but I will reveal its nature only in bits and pieces.